(JP, HOST) The appeal to milblog for me while on deployment to Afghanistan during OEF V, was to breakup the boredom in between missions. I wanted to share stories about my experience with family, friends, and readers back home to assure them I was okay (Non Op Sec stuff, like the time my Gunner climbed into his sleeping bag headfirst).
I also wanted to write home and tell my family about the losses our unit suffered when two soldiers from my Battalion were killed only three weeks in country by a roadside bomb - or tell them about a buddy who killed himself with less than two months in country - or explain that my buddies and I were okay, but that 18 Americans were killed just outside our wire when a Chinook crashed during a dust storm. I wanted to say so much and more, but instead, I coped with my deployment by writing stories about care packages, about my 4-year old son, and about my battle buddies.
Everyone milblogs for different reasons. These men and women still blogging from the frontlines, are offering firsthand accounts of war that won't be told by the MSM.
Last week, I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Matt, the Miltary Blogger Blackfive - in my first of many interviews with military bloggers.
This is a transcript of the interview that has NOT been edited.
JP: You have started a milblog that has gathered a Survivor-like following on the internet. Why did you start milblogging?
MATT, MILITARY BLOGGER BLACKFIVE: A good friend of mine, Major Mathew Schram, was killed on Memorial Day, 2003. In fighting his way out of an ambush, he saved the life of a Newsweek reporter who never wrote a story about Mat.
Newsweek really pissed me off and I started blogging about the good, the bad, the humorous and the ugly of military life because most MSM outlets like Newsweek weren't. If it didn't fit the template of "Bush sucks, the war sucks, the military is failing", then it didn't get published by most of the MSM.
Soon after the start of Blackfive, there was a distinct void of
coverage of what was actually happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. My friends were sending emails that were contradicting what I was reading in the NYTimes and the WashPo. So I started posting those.
JP: Milblog, milblogger, milblogging - these aren't words you'll find in Webster's Dictionary. I did find it on Urban Dictionary. And I quote, "We don't need more sissy reporters at the front. Just tell those pansies in the mainstream media to copy/paste from the milblogs." What is your definition of a milblog?
MATT: Well, right now, the term "milblog" has a very wide description. Basically, anyone connected to the military – active, reservists and guardsmen, veterans, retirees (sort of a veteran+), spouses, and supporters. That's probably too wide. When you have a blog like mine (I'm a vet) that wins awards as a milblog, I wonder about the efficacy of the award because I will no longer be put in harm's way.
There ought to be a tighter definition for those bloggers posting from a combat zone. They deserve more focus – of course, many of them would prefer not to have the spotlight shone on their blogs because of the latest OPSEC guidelines.
JP: How much longer do you think the MSM will be around?
MATT: Forever. Much like the world's oldest profession.
JP: There are "personal-blogs" "tech-blogs" even "pet-blogs". Are you surprised by the popularity of milblogs?
MATT: I still don't think that they're that popular, yet. I'm surprised that Blackfive is where it is. It was never meant to be what it is.
JP: What is going on in the milblogging world right now?
MATT: Well, the OPSEC guidelines have restricted a lot of the blogging from Iraq and Afghanistan. It's needed, but it's also unfortunate because there were some really great stories coming out of those men and women. Some just shut down to avoid hassles – even if their commanders approved their content.
JP: How has your life changed by milblogging? Talk shows? Radio? Your own action flick? Bling? Can you tell us a little bit about your forthcoming Anthology on Milbloggers?
MATT: It has affected my life quite a bit. Luckily, my wife supports me keeping Blackfive running.
I've been on MSNBC's Connected thanks to Buzz Patterson – who, by the way, is a huge supporter of us all. That was just surreal.
Done lots of radio. Much easier and I enjoy it more. Got a face for radio.
The media attention brought lots of (book publishing) agents my way. They all sucked. Then, this one agent wrote an email about what MilBlogs were all about. He got it, understood why you all are so damned important. So I actually called him and we discussed the possibilities. Voila! Book deal. My/our agent rocks.
The MilBlog book is going to be published by Simon & Schuster. Our editor is one of the best in the entire publishing business. We got very lucky.
The book will be published next August or September. No title yet.
I wrote a 26,000 word proposal and this is the post/mini proposal about it.
The book will be along the lines of the "letters home" History books. An oral history told by bloggers in the war and the families left behind. Essentially, I didn't want all of the great posts about the people fighting the war to disappear.
Read the entire transcript of the interview with Matt, here.